It's a subject that comes up in many a conversation between expats living in Belgium. CheeseWeb's guest contributor Paola has gone in search of the answer. One of the reasons brought forward to explain why international people don't seem to have any Belgian friends is the number of demands on Belgians' time. Paola argues that many expats don't have any Belgian friends, because they never see any Belgians because they have too many other commitments:
"I don’t think I’ve ever met a more schedule-loving group of people in my life! I personally struggled with this when I first came to live in this country, especially since I come from a land where I could just phone a friend and make impromptu plans for dinner that same day!"
Paola also brings up Belgians' great love of their comfort zone: they like to stay close to their village - though this doesn't apply to driving two hours every day to get to work. It does mean they like to be close to their family and friends they've known forever.
Paola does offer some advice on how to break down the barriers though: "Showing genuine interest in the life of your prospective Belgian friend (in an appropriate, non-stalker way, of course) can get her to open up and put you in a place within her inner circle!"
Finally, Paola also insists that Belgians are hard to read and that this too complicates matters: "Working with Belgians can be puzzling. Whether or not they are buying into what you are proposing is a mystery."
Still, Paola, is a born optimist: "I still think pursuing Belgian friendships is worth a try. Some of those general traits about Belgians have a great positive spin in the friendship department: they are true, loyal, and just about one of the nicest people you’ve ever met; even if their schedules only allow a get together once or twice a year!"
Do you agree with Paola’s analysis of the situation or has she got it wrong? Have you got tons of Belgian and Flemish friends or none at all and what is your analysis of the situation. Let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.